Dec. 12, 2013
EAST LANSING, Mich. - Michigan State senior cornerback Darqueze Dennard has been named winner of the 2013 Jack Tatum Award, presented to college football's best defensive back by The Touchdown Club of Columbus. Dennard will be honored at the 59th annual Touchdown Club of Columbus Awards Banquet on Saturday, Feb. 8, 2014, at the Lifestyle Communities Pavilion in Columbus, Ohio.
Dennard becomes the sixth Michigan State player to be named the best at his respective position by the Touchdown Club of Columbus, joining Brad Van Pelt (1972 Defensive Back of the Year), Carl Banks (1983 Linebacker of the Year), Lorenzo White (1985 Running Back of the Year), Tony Mandarich (1988 Offensive Lineman of the Year) and Charles Rogers (2002 Receiver of the Year).
A first-team All-America selection by USA TODAY, Dennard was named one of three finalists for the Jim Thorpe Award (presented to the nation's top defensive back) and one of five finalists the Bronko Nagurski Trophy (presented to the nation's top defensive player by the Football Writers Association of America). He also was named the Tatum-Woodson Big Ten Defensive Back of the Year and earned first-team All-Big Ten honors for the second year in a row. A unanimous first-team pick by the coaches, Dennard recently was ranked the No. 3 defensive player in the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision by CBSSports.com.
The 5-foot-11, 197-pound Dennard, who has accepted an invitation to play in the Senior Bowl, leads the Spartans in passes defended (14), pass break-ups (10) and interceptions (4). He ranks fourth on the team in tackles (59) and fifth in production points (189). Dennard has been credited with 2.5 tackles for losses (6 yards) and ranks among the Big Ten leaders in interceptions (tied for third) and passes defended (tied for seventh at 1.08 per game).
He helps anchor a defensive unit that ranks among the NCAA FBS Top 10 in seven different stat categories: rushing defense (first at 80.8 yards per game), total defense (first at 248.2 ypg.), opponent third-down conversions (first at .277; 53-of-191), passing efficiency defense (second with 91.5 rating), scoring defense (fourth at 12.7 points per game), turnover margin (seventh at +1.1 per game) and passing defense (sixth at 167.4 ypg.). The Spartans have been ranked No. 1 in the nation in total defense for 13 consecutive weeks.
Dennard recorded three tackles, two pass break-ups and forced a fumble in Michigan State's 34-24 win over No. 2 Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship Game. The Spartans limited the Buckeyes to 25 total yards in the fourth quarter, including zero passing yards, as MSU rallied from a 24-20 deficit to claim a BCS berth in the Rose Bowl.
On Senior Day against Minnesota in his last appearance at Spartan Stadium, Dennard tied his career high with nine tackles and also broke up a pass.
He recorded a career-best nine tackles and an interception in Michigan State's 30-6 victory at Northwestern, as the Spartans claimed the Big Ten Legends Division title for the second time in three seasons. It marked Dennard's personal best fourth interception of the season and 10th of his career. MSU's defense pitched a shutout in the second half against the Wildcats while allowing just seven first downs and 95 total yards.
Dennard produced an impressive all-around effort in the win over No. 23 Michigan, as MSU held the Wolverines out of the end zone for the second consecutive season. He picked off a Devin Gardner pass at the 3-yard line in the fourth quarter, and the Spartans proceeded to march 97 yards on an eight-play touchdown drive to seal the 29-6 victory. Dennard also forced a fumble and collected four tackles against the Wolverines.
He posted seven tackles in Michigan State's 14-0 victory over Purdue, including a half tackle for loss (1 yard). MSU's defense recorded its first shutout since 2011 (44-0 over Florida Atlantic) and its first against a Big Ten opponent since 1999 (34-0 at Northwestern).
Dennard totaled five tackles, a quarterback hurry and a pass break-up in MSU's 42-28 Homecoming win over Indiana, as the Spartans limited IU to season lows in passing offense (259 yards) and total offense (351). The Hoosiers entered the game ranked ninth in the nation in total offense (535.0 ypg.) and 10th in passing offense (346.0 ypg.).
Dennard was selected Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week after recording eight tackles and a career-high two interceptions in MSU's 26-14 win at Iowa. The Spartan defense limited the Hawkeyes to 264 total yards - 183 yards below their season average. In addition, MSU held Iowa to 23 yards rushing (1.4 yards per carry) - 221 yards below its season average. Michigan State shut out the Hawkeyes in the second half, as Iowa managed just six first downs, 6 rushing yards and 104 total yards in the final two quarters. Dennard's second interception at the 5:25 mark in the fourth quarter helped ice the game, and it marked the third multi-interception game of his career (2012 Outback Bowl vs. Georgia, 2012 vs. Nebraska).
The Dry Branch, Ga., native was credited with five tackles, including a half tackle for loss (2 yards), a QB hurry and two pass break-ups in MSU's 21-6 victory over South Florida. In the season opener, Dennard matched his career-high with three pass break-ups in MSU's 26-13 win over Western Michigan.
Dennard is in his third season as a starting cornerback for the Spartans. He has collected 164 tackles and 30 passes defended (20 pass break-ups, 10 interceptions) in 43 career games, including 39 starts (28 consecutive).
The award is named in honor of the late Jack Tatum, a three-year starter from 1968-70 and two-time All-American at Ohio State. As a senior, he was named National Defensive Player of the Year. Known for his tenacity and fierce style of play, Tatum became a mainstay of the Ohio State defense for three seasons as the Buckeyes compiled a 27-2 record and won the 1968 National Championship, two Big Ten titles and played in two Rose Bowls. The Oakland Raiders selected him in the first round of the 1971 NFL Draft. In his nine-year career, he was named to the Pro Bowl three times and was a member of the 1976 Super Bowl Champion Raiders. He was inducted into the Ohio State Athletics Hall of Fame in 1981 and the College Football Hall of Fame in 2004. The outstanding defensive back in the Big Ten is awarded the Tatum-Woodson Defensive Back of the Year award.